1. The teabaggers, like anti-war demonstrators, are discovering that numbers aren’t headlines. The rush of the street, the vast numbers one imagines oneself to be part of, are dispatched the next day on page A-2 if you are lucky. There’s nothing like the power of not seeing what is in front of your nose – and that is the power of the metro newspaper. Condolences.
2. I’d have more sympathy with this group if, in fact, they had turned out in the street in large numbers long, long ago. Turned out to protest the Bush tax cuts that destroyed the surplus. Turned out to protest the literal trillions spent on a fraudulent global war against terror. The behemoth of those trillions did not even give birth to the little mouselet of destroying al qaeda, which would have been childishly easy to do in late 2001. Turned out to protest the largest hike in medicare spending ever passed, which happened, of course, in 2003 with the passage of Bush’s gift to BigPharma, the pill bill. One should recall that the enormous expenditures were added to government spending on top of enormous tax decreases.
3. So, in general, the teabag crowd is hypocritical and blindly selfish. But the liberal meme that these are ignorant bigots won’t wash. Instead, these are people who feel, rightly, that they have lost symbolic power in this country. Their habit of bashing the government and enjoying the benefits of government spending lends their message its special ductus: spend the money on me.
4. The message, in other words, is all about the Soviet-like decay of the system. The teabaggers, past beneficiaries of a system that is broke, can’t believe the system broke. This is an utterly predictable response.
5. However, the liberal response to the Obama administration’s continuation of Bush policies is more puzzling. The Pentagon gravy train is chugging away at 750-850 billion per, with no handwringing on my side. That is easily 650 to 750 billion dollars too much.
More importantly, liberals, looking at the absolute horror of the Wellpoint-Baucus bill, should be asking, how did we get here.
The old answer was that the single payer was politically untenable. The new answer is that the public option is politically untenable. And the sum total of the answers is: Dems have no intention of “reforming” the health care system. From Obama’s astonishing willingness to keep the old Bush rule of paying ransom prices for pharmaceuticals to BigPharma to the dropping of the public option by Baucus to rigging the public option with the deadweight of provisions to make sure it doesn’t compete with private insurance providers, I’m not sure what is more delusional: the belief Obama is a radical Marxist, or the belief that Obama is a progressive.
6. So, we are given another solution that isn’t a solution. By the team that took over and made its own Paulson’s TARP.
7. The problem needs to be stated over and over again. The U.S. health system is the most costly in the world, and – for all that spending – has the least social scope of any of the major developed economies. It is absurdly expensive and absurdly insufficient. To spend hundreds of billions of dollars more than other countries, and to cover less, could only be accomplished by a very special beast.
8. The reform doesn’t slay the beast. It puts a collar on it.
9. When Obama said, in the presidential debates, that healthcare was a right, not a privilege, he lifted the doubts from my heart. At the moment, he has been piling them back on. The NYT obit of the public option cited a Republican sponsored study that showed that the public option could garner up to 100 million clients. For the Republicans, this showed how bad the public option is. For those whose heads are not up their assholes, this showed that the public option would be, like the post office, one of the most popular government programs ever.
10. Designing a government program that does not compete with – and kick the ass of – private insurers is the sure route to inefficiency and failure. As for the mandate hatched by Wellpoint and Baucus, what can one say? The vileness of the scheme, which exists to shuttle even more money into the hands of private insurers, is in competition with the laughability of the scheme, which essentially raises the taxes (which is what an enforced enrollment in a private insurance program would be) on the middle class to a level not seen since, well, the level on the rich in the pre-Reagan days. This is happening as we have the new reports showing zippo income growth over the last nine years in the median household, and astonishing Golcondas going to the upper 1 percent. 11. A Fanny Healthcare – a government backed entity to which anybody could transfer their current insurance for a cheaper one - is the necessary first step towards shrinking the amount the U.S. pays on a per capita basis for healthcare. 12. The right has made the point, over and over again, that socialized healthcare leads to longer waiting times. And, in one respect, they are right. Waiting times as they are measured now, say by Merrit Hawkins, extend from the time one contacts the healthcare provider to the appointment. The Merrit Hawkins survey showed that when Massachussetts put in place a universal healthcare scheme, waiting times shot up. Why? This is where the right falls silent. The why is because waiting times as measured by MH are a subset of all waiting times. Those who don’t have insurance or who have coverage with a heavy deductible simply don’t call up doctors to make appointments, unless they have to. They try to tough it out. But in a system in which they have coverage, they will make those appointments. In other words, demand shoots up. And given that the supply is stable, what gives is the wait time. 13. This is pretty obvious. Or it should be. On the one hand, the right is actually defending one of the feature of the system that doesn’t extend to everybody – your middle class patient actually benefits from this. That defense could be called, I’ve got mine, Jack, and you can bleed to death. On the other hand, liberals have shut their eyes to the fact that reforming the system will dramatically increase demand. A good healthcare reform would aim at increasing healthcare supply – one way being increasing the number of healthcare providers. We should cut a nice fifty billion per year from the Pentagon budget and devote it to scholarships for medical and nursing students. And we should have a major discussion about what primary care providers do that can be done by trained nurses. 14. We won’t have that discussion. It is easy to see that Dem legislators are influenced by the greedymen of K street – but their actions are partly motivated by the fact that covering the uninsured is not necessarily a votecatcher. Not only are there more overlaps between the uninsured and the non-voting, but the voters are going to be shocked by the increase in waiting times. This is why it is crucial that those voters are given a good, public option, as a tradeoff for universal coverage. Otherwise, universal coverage will fade - it will be successfully subject too vilification and become a welfare-like entity, ringing the neck of liberals.
15. Bus we won’t have this discussion, as I say. Politics at the moment is not only full of hate, but the hate has crowded out reality. The hatred exists for itself. Opinions are adopted not on their own merits, but to “get” the other side. This is the kind of factionalism that happens in old, decaying empires. The American Imperium is dying.
MANY YEARS LATER as he faced the firing squad, Roger Gathman was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover
ice. Or rather, to discover the profit making potential of selling bags of ice to picnicking Atlantans, the most glorious of the old man's Get Rich schemes, the one that devoured the most energy, the one that seemed so rational for a time, the one that, like all the others - the farm, the housebuilding business, the plastic sign business, chimney cleaning, well drilling, candy machine renting - was drawn by an inexorable black hole that opened up between skill and lack of business sense, imagination and macro-economics, to blow a huge hole in the family savings account. But before discovering the ice machine at 12, Roger had discovered many other things - for instance, he had a distinct memory of learning how to tie his shoes. It was in the big colonial, a house in the Syracuse metro area that had been built to sell and that stubbornly wouldn't - hence, the family had moved into it. He remembered bending over the shoes, he remembered that clumsy feeling in his hands - clumsiness, for the first time, had a habitation, it was made up of this obscure machine, the shoe, and it presaged a lifetime of struggle with machine after machine.